Arizona officials urge safe practices indoors and out for Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving is here, and people across Arizona and the United States will be in a haste to get to their destinations in time for the first round of food.

But as people drive and fly to visit family and friends, officials are encouraging everyone to be safe when it comes to transportation and food.

According to a report from QuoteWizard, Thanksgiving has proven to be the most dangerous holiday to drive in. Between 2011 and 2015, there were 1,929 driving fatalities during Thanksgiving break. Of those, 35.5% involved alcohol-impaired drivers.

What probably doesn’t help this Thanksgiving weekend is the chances for rain today and Friday in the Phoenix and Tucson areas. And according to AAA, over 31 million vehicles are expected to be on the road across the U.S. during the holiday weekend.

“Weather adds an additional layer of risk on the roads during a busy holiday weekend,” said Adam Johnson, research analyst at QuoteWizard. “Especially in Arizona where drivers are used to dry weather, a rainy holiday weekend could present dangerous road conditions.”

In QuoteWizard’s report, November is one of the most dangerous months to drive in. Using data from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, QuoteWizard analyzed fatality rates by month to see which months and holidays out of the year were most dangerous for drivers and found the following:

In November, 30,092 driving fatalities occurred between 2007 to 2017.

November was tied for the second-most dangerous month to drive in with 1.12 fatal crashes per 100 million miles traveled.

According to an IIHS Status Report, most fatalities occur on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Summer and fall months have the most vehicle miles traveled and therefore have a heightened risk for crashes.

Click here to view QuoteWizard’s report.

Food Safety

Once people get to their destination, being safe doesn’t end. With all the food on the table, Banner Health advises people to follow simple food-safety tips to avoid any foodborne illness.

Foodborne illness hits one in six Americans every year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 128,000 people end up in the hospital, while 3,000 die each year.

“Leftovers is a big one (issue),” said Tracey Fejt, trauma prevention coordinator for Banner Health. “We do have food left out on the table and it’s important to get any of it back into the refrigerator within a two-hour period.”

The reason for the quick turnaround, according to Melissa Luxton, RN, a trauma outreach coordinator at Banner Health, is that bacteria can grow rapidly in the danger zone between 40 degrees and 140 degrees.

She said after food is cooked, keep hot food hot and cold food cold. Then refrigerate or freeze any perishable food within those two hours. The temperature in the refrigerator should be set at or below 40 degrees and the freezer at or below 0 degrees.

“The bacteria Clostridium perfringens grows in cooked foods left at room temperature,” Ms. Luxton said. “It is the second most common bacterial cause of food poisoning. The major symptoms are vomiting and abdominal cramps within 6 to 24 hours after eating. Clostridium perfringens outbreaks occur most often in November and December. Many of these outbreaks have been linked to foods commonly served during the holidays, such as turkey and roast beef. Slice or divide big cuts of meat, such as a roast turkey, into small quantities for refrigeration so they will cool quickly. Reheat all leftovers to at least 165 degrees [sic] before serving.”

In addition to the “two-hour rule for leftovers,” other food-safety tips include:

Separate: Keep raw and cooked food separated; use different utensils and cutting surfaces for each of them.

No double dipping while cooking: If you are tasting food, make sure you wash off the spoon or a use another one before you go back for another sample.

Be careful of bacteria: Fully cook meats and poultry, and thoroughly wash raw vegetables and fruits.

Thaw thoughtfully: Always thaw meat in the refrigerator, never on the counter top.

Hand hygiene: Wash your hands frequently and make sure your children do the same.

Banner Health says children under 5, adults 65 years and older, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems are more likely to get a food-related illness and have more serious complications from it.

Older adults have a higher risk because as people age, their immune systems and organs don’t recognize and get rid of harmful germs as well as they once did, Ms. Luxton said.

In contrast, children’s immune systems are still developing, so their body’s ability to fight germs and sickness isn’t as strong, Ms. Luxton added. Food poisoning can be particularly dangerous for them because illness can lead to diarrhea and dehydration.

She said children younger than 5 are three times more likely to be hospitalized if they get a Salmonella infection. And kidney failure strikes 1 out of 7 children under 5 who are diagnosed with E. coli O157 infection.

Symptoms of severe food poisoning include a high fever — temperature over 102 degrees; bloody stools; frequent vomiting that prevents keeping liquids down, which can lead to dehydration; diarrhea that lasts more than three days; and dehydration, which causes symptoms such as dry mouth and throat, feeling dizzy when standing up, and little or no urination.

Cooking safety

Keeping family and friends out of harm’s way is critical as well. Those that are hosting at their homes are reminded to practice safe cooking tips to avoid fires and other hazards.

The National Fire Protection Association offers the following 10 tips:

Stay in the kitchen when you are cooking on the stovetop so you can keep an eye on the food;

Stay in the home when cooking your turkey and check on it frequently;

Keep children away from the stove. The stove will be hot and kids should stay 3 feet away;

Make sure kids stay away from hot food and liquids. The steam or splash from vegetables, gravy or coffee could cause serious burns;

Keep the floor clear so you don’t trip over kids, toys, pocketbooks or bags;

Keep knives out of the reach of children;

Be sure electric cords from an electric knife, coffee maker, plate warmer or mixer are not dangling off the counter within easy reach of a child;

Keep matches and utility lighters out of the reach of children — up high in a locked cabinet;

Never leave children alone in room with a lit candle; and

Make sure your smoke alarms are working. Test them by pushing the test button.

If you haven’t heard by now, never attempt to deep fry a frozen turkey. Fire agencies include those in Phoenix and Glendale recently demonstrated the “explosive” fire that could erupt if someone tries. So if you do fry a turkey, be sure it is completely thawed and dry before placing in a fryer. Also, do not over fill the fryer and choose a level space outdoors. The Arizona Fire & Medical Authority also says to never leave your home with food in the oven.

On the road again

Once everyone is ready to go home, especially those driving across town, getting their safely is paramount. As QuoteWizard found, 35% of fatal crashes over Thanksgiving involved impaired drivers. Drinking and driving is never recommended by authorities, and they will be out in force in Arizona.

Across the state, law enforcement agencies are on the watch for impaired and distracted drivers during the holiday weekend, with 88 agencies participating in Impaired Driving Deployment activities. Specially trained drug recognition experts will also be working DUI Patrols.

“We want everyone to enjoy the holiday festivities and to do so responsibly by having a designated driver, calling a friend, a ride service, or taking a taxi home,” said Alberto Gutier, GOHS Director.

Those expecting to drink while out celebrating can use one of two codes for a cheaper Lyft ride home. New users can use SAFEARIZONA, which gives $5 off four rides. All users can use SAFEARIZONA19 for 10% off two rides. The codes are in effect now through Jan. 2, 2020.

“Lyft and Uber drivers are also celebrating Thanksgiving so rides might be few and far between,” said Adam Johnson, research analyst at QuoteWizard. “Please schedule your rides ahead of time to ensure you’re not stranded and make the bad choice of driving.”

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